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Tiskita Jungle Lodge and the Aspinalls

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The Aspinall family has long been a force for environmental education and protection in Costa Rica. John Aspinall is president of Costa Rica Sun Tours, an inbound Costa Rica travel agency specializing in ecotourism; William Aspinall ran the Monteverde Reserve for four years and now manages the family-owned Arenal Observatory Lodge and forest reserve, an important Smithsonian Institute research base; Maryanne Aspinall has been an active member of many voluntary and conservation organizations in Costa Rica and heads the Tiskita Foundation; and Peter Aspinall manages Tiskita Jungle Lodge and biological reserve.

The biggest delight in this tropical haven is not simply the nature show - it's the idea behind Tiskita and its host. Peter Aspinall, a native Costa Rican with a Canadian and US education, is not your ordinary hostelry owner catering to tourists. He's a farmer, first and foremost, and one who is intent on protecting the environment while being a successful grower. His eco-conscious approaches make Tiskita a beautiful and responsible Costa Rica tour option.

While Peter Aspinall believes the best way to protect the rainforests is to let people see them, great care is taken to ensure that neither the visitors they invite to enjoy the Tiskita reserve, nor the facilities they provide for them, threaten or damage the delicate balance of nature in any way. Collecting of any kind is prohibited at Tiskita and there are talks about the natural environment, its problems and solutions for staff, guests and local visitors alike.

In fact, Tiskita Jungle Lodge has been recognized for its commitment to responsible Costa Rica tour operating. The Aspinalls not only conserve the forests within the 550 acres reserve but, through the Tiskita Foundation, also raise money to support the local community and buy neighboring land for reforestation and protection. So far, with the help of contributions from former visitors and voluntary organizations, they have helped complete work on the Punta Banco Health Clinic, provided supplies to the village school and purchased native trees for reforestation in the surrounding area. The first land purchase of 125 acres for reforestation was made in 1993.

As one of the few tourist destinations in this remote area, Tiskita works to ensure that the local community also benefits from the presence of visitors and donates a percentage of its profits each year. Most of the staff is recruited locally and the local marimba band is hired for special events. Visitors have a tour of the village and are encouraged to buy crafts and souvenirs produced by the local Guaymí Indians. These opportunities enliven any Costa Rica tour experience. A plot of land has been donated to the local community, along with the timber to build a community center, library and shop.

Nearby Punto Banco is a nesting spot for the ridley, green and leatherback turtles. In 1996 Peter Aspinall carried out a survey on a 5 km strip of beach in front of Tiskita and identified six major nesting areas. However, almost all the eggs laid by the 350 turtles that nested during the period of his survey, were taken either by human or animal predators. To protect them during their lengthy incubation (45-63 days), a bamboo and chicken wire turtle nursery was built near Tiskita. In 1997 the Aspinalls released 10,000 baby turtles. Turtle eggs can now be reburied and stand a better chance of hatching.

Adventure Life offers tours that incorporate stays at the Tiskita Jungle Lodge. If you wish to make a donation to the Tiskita Foundation, please ask for a copy of the Tiskita Foundation brochure when you begin your Costa Rica tour.

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